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After the Apocalypse, Try Reason!


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#1 Ed Hudgins

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Posted 27 May 2011 - 04:16 PM

After the Apocalypse, Try Reason!
by Edward Hudgins


May 27, 2011 -- Eighty-nine-year-old religious nut Harold Camping prophesized that the world would end on May 21, 2011, at 6:00 p.m. local time. A woman who believed him wanted to get a jump on Armageddon and avoid the horrors of fire and brimstone. So she slit her 11- and 14-year-old daughters' throats with a box cutter and then slit her own.

The Rapture did not occur. The world didn't end. The two daughters and mother survived. The mother is in jail where she belongs. Camping, sadly, also survives and is free to cause the world more grief. Camping promoted his prophecy through his 66-station Family Radio network. He convinced followers to plaster the message on billboards and hand out leaflets coast to coast. Some now-destitute disciples emptied their bank accounts to advertise the Apocalypse.

Camping himself was reported to be confused and flabbergasted that his prediction was wrong, even though he was wrong with a similar prediction decades ago. He now thinks the world will end in October. What we really need is an end to the root of all immorality, a root that gives rise to people like Camping. What is this root? And how ought we to deal with Camping and his followers?

Children Behaving Badly

Children often behave in an irresponsible, irrational, emotionally charged manner with very bad results—valuables broken, someone hurt. In the aftermath they're often confused and torn inside. They might cry out of shame for what they've done. Or they might block out unpleasant realities and anger at their own negligence by making excuses or lashing out at others. Good parents will also try to correct them and to change their moral habits lest they have miserable lives ahead of them.

While Camping himself and those who propagated his nonsense deserve derision, let us assume that some, like bad children, might be savable, or that at least we might dissuade others from falling for such foolishness in the future.

So let's ask some questions of these acolytes and offer them some lessons.

Believer, Ask Thyself

1) Did you examine the record of doomsday predictions made over past millennia? How did those predictions fare? Obviously, all have failed; otherwise, none of us would be here. Doesn't this fact suggest that, if you accept such predictions, you'll end up as just another transient target of jokes by late-night comedians, as you just did? And why did all those other predictions fail?

2) Did you seriously consider objections to and the case against the end-of-the-world prediction? Good thinkers always ask if they might be wrong. They consider whether there is good evidence and good arguments to indicate that they are mistaken.

3) Did you really want the prediction to be true? Some of you no doubt didn't want the world to end, fearing that you might go to a hellish reward rather than a heavenly one. But others of you probably welcomed what you imagined would be a future ethereal Eden or all-inclusive luxury resort in the sky. But wishing doesn't make it so, and wishful thinking can blind one to reality.

4) Did you seek an easy, simple way of making sense of the world? We all want certainty about life, the universe, and everything. But reality is complex: we must earn our knowledge through mental and moral work. If you're lazy and seek instant knowledge, you make yourself susceptible to the fairytales of self-deluded con-men like Camping.

5) Were you trapped by your own theology? Your religion is based on assumptions about the nature of the world, the universe, man, and human consciousness. An honest look at your beliefs will show them to be highly questionable if not downright absurd.

Tops is your belief that the Bible is a divinely inspired book that allows you to make predictions about the end of the world. Given all evidence to the contrary, if you allow that meme to stay in your head, you'll keep banging your head up against failed prophecies.

Incidentally, scientific cosmology, based on decades of factual research, shows that the world—or the Earth, at least—will end in 5 billion years when the Sun balloons to a red giant. No need right now to give away all your wealth or murder your children!

6) Are you honestly seeking the truth about objective reality? I argue that concerning many matters you are not. You rationalize and cherry-pick information and call it "reason." But it isn't. You willfully evade. You engage in egregious self-deception. You blank out your mind to that which you suspect or know to be true but which you don't want to accept. This practice led you to believe the silliness you just swallowed.

Root of Evil

And it is this practice that is the root of evil, the first and greatest immoral act: the willful refusal to think, the refusal to focus, the refusal to step back and ask whether you're honestly seeking the truth. You often label this practice "faith" and argue that it should be respected. It shouldn't. And throwing out that word like a witch doctor trying to cast a spell on imagined enemies only makes your offense worse.

The act of refusing to face reality is not confined to members of fringe Christian cults. It is found among the believers in all religions. It is found in adherents to all ideologies. It is a danger for all individuals. This is why it is important to promote an Enlightenment culture that values the virtue of rationality and critical thinking above all else.

The scorn heaped on Camping was appropriate, but it should not only have been confined to his bound-to-fail predictions. It should have been focused on the contrast between his and his followers' irrationality and a rational approach to life and knowledge, the only approach for those who cherish life in this world.

#2 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 27 May 2011 - 04:31 PM

Unfortunately Camping and his ilk are legally free to spew their nonsense (as long as they do not try to defraud people out of their assets) and people are legally free to believe his nonsense. We cannot legislate logic and good sense.

Ba'al Chatzaf
אויב מיין באָבע האט בייצים זי וואָלט זיין מיין זיידע

#3 Ed Hudgins

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Posted 27 May 2011 - 04:43 PM

I never said that individuals should be barred by government from speaking. I do argue that they should be confronted and not allowed to hide behind the excuse that their idiocy should be respected as part of their faith.

Unfortunately Camping and his ilk are legally free to spew their nonsense (as long as they do not try to defraud people out of their assets) and people are legally free to believe his nonsense. We cannot legislate logic and good sense.

Ba'al Chatzaf



#4 sjw

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Posted 27 May 2011 - 06:07 PM

I never said that individuals should be barred by government from speaking. I do argue that they should be confronted and not allowed to hide behind the excuse that their idiocy should be respected as part of their faith.


Agreed but let's prioritize. The War on Drugs causes far more damage than do these extreme religious nuts. For example, how about a scathing attack on gutting The Bill of Rights and instead having no-knock warrants which lead to the murder of innocents by SWAT teams?


Shayne

#5 Neil Parille

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 09:16 AM

Most mainstream religious groups are pretty good at not setting dates. I'd feel sorry for Camping's followers but for the fact that he already predicted the end in 1994.

-Neil Parille
http://objectiblog.blogspot.com/

#6 Ed Hudgins

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 11:15 AM

Don't criticize a giraffe for not being an elephant, you silly goose!



I never said that individuals should be barred by government from speaking. I do argue that they should be confronted and not allowed to hide behind the excuse that their idiocy should be respected as part of their faith.


Agreed but let's prioritize. The War on Drugs causes far more damage than do these extreme religious nuts. For example, how about a scathing attack on gutting The Bill of Rights and instead having no-knock warrants which lead to the murder of innocents by SWAT teams?


Shayne



#7 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 02:25 PM

I always enjoy your posts, Ed. You write well on interesting topics. I do not always agree with your point - and sometimes not with your assumptions. This is one of those times. I agree 100% that the failure of the prediction should give true believers cause to stop and ask some basic questions. You are right. It is not clear how many (if any) will. Undoubtedly, some to many will be "disillusioned" and "disappointed" and may drift away from this particular church. They will, however, find another church of some kind. Given the numbers, a few might find Objectivism.

I look to Eric Hoffer's The True Believer (1951). In that generation, it was considered surprising that people could switch from Bolshevism to Fascism, from Marxism to Nazism, from Christianity to Communism. Ayn Rand offered a mechanistic explanation that tied all of those philosophies together by their common roots. Hoffer looked at the psychology of the believer. That psychology is what brings some people to Objectivism, especially from religions. They reject every mystical premise they grew up with and learn the philosophy of reality and reason very well. The well-defined questions and answers appeal to those who cannot live with ambiguity or uncertainty.

You might suggest that as Objectivists, they will be better able to live productive happy lives, because Objectivism is based on reality and reason. But then consider the people who want to "Go Galt" retreating to wilderness farms. That is just a different Apocalypse, addressed for example in The Future and Its Enemies by Virginia Postrel. Irrational people can hold rational beliefs, and vice versa. Christians and Muslims, socialists and monarchists have proved themselves fully adept at being successful, productive, and happy.

Where were you when "To Whom It May Concern" was published? Did you know about the split earlier? I heard of Objectivists who left the movement as a result of that. Having taken the Basic Principles course as a high school senior 1966-1967, by May 1968, I was a college freshman. I was not surprised or dismayed. My intellectual horizon was already widened; and for me Objectivism was always about the ideas, not the people. That was a principle from a deeper objectivism: the rational-empiricism of the scientific method. The validity of an idea is independent of the person who proposes it. The point is that some true believers will be disillusioned when their god fails... The Ribbentrop-Molotov Treaty, the Berlin Wall going up, Prague Spring, the Berlin Wall coming down ... But most just readjust their expectations.

Edited by Michael E. Marotta, 28 May 2011 - 02:26 PM.

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#8 sjw

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 02:29 PM

Well, you can let Reason Magazine and Cato deal with the substantive issues if you want, but they tend to be aphilosophical about them.


Shayne

Don't criticize a giraffe for not being an elephant, you silly goose!




I never said that individuals should be barred by government from speaking. I do argue that they should be confronted and not allowed to hide behind the excuse that their idiocy should be respected as part of their faith.


Agreed but let's prioritize. The War on Drugs causes far more damage than do these extreme religious nuts. For example, how about a scathing attack on gutting The Bill of Rights and instead having no-knock warrants which lead to the murder of innocents by SWAT teams?


Shayne



#9 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 03:21 PM

Well, you can let Reason Magazine and Cato deal with the substantive issues if you want, but they tend to be aphilosophical about them.


I think that they are both very philosophical about them, as is their opposite, the Southern Poverty Law Center. They all appeal to political ideas that are rooted first in political philosophy - what is a just state, etc.; how could should a just state be composed, etc. - and that upon a wider and more basic philosophy. Of course, those philosophical precepts of metaphysics, and all that, are implicit and vague. And must be. The SPLC is not going to lose members over a metaphysical assertion, any more than McDonald's cares whether you buy the Big Mac or the Chicken Salad, as long as you buy: your health theories are your own. Metaphysical problems and medical research are not the core product.

For Ed Hudgins, philosophy is the core product. That's fine. We need that.

However, whether we all need to get behind a crusade over Drug Laws or SWAT Teams is a different topic, also. For that, see my reply above: all the arguments in the world will not dissuade a Guardian Enforcer.... or much of anyone, really. You cannot rationally argue a man out of an opinion he was not rationally argued into in the first place. Who reads Cato or Reason? Only people who agree with them in advance. They do not convince or convert or persuade anyone.

I agree that democratic governments are especially alterable by common consent. Thus, slavery was ended in the west. Women got the right to vote. We tried Prohibition and then repealed it. So, yes, you can point to mass movements, social movements that succeeded. How that happened though is complex in each case and likely each case is different. The common factors are so vague - "popular unrest" or "demonstrations" - as to be unavailable as tools. If it were mechanistic, the Revolutions of 1848 would not have failed. World War I would not have happened. (Songs such as "I Didn't Raise My Boy to be a Soldier." were only on the zenith. The long trajectory included speculations that the workers of the world would not fight the next war.) Demanding the President's birth certificate and other nonsense just underscores the need for philosophy because you need some standard to tell the substantive issues from the baloney.

And what is the "substantive issue"? Is it the no-knock raid? Or the courts that empower them? Or the complacency of the citizenry? Or is it the fact that if all the drug users just quit using drugs, the task forces could be disbanded?

I get your point, Shayne. You think that scorning fools for their religion is less important than fighting a government that violates its own Constitution. Philosophically, they are irrational birds of an immoral feather. So, why would you bother with either of them? Take care of yourself. Mind your own business. It is pretty easy to do because you have more control over the actor.

Mike M.
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#10 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 04:52 AM

Faith comes to the forefront on Sunday in Joplin
By the CNN Wire Staff
May 29, 2011 5:51 a.m. EDT

"God allows things to happen that we don't know why," the pastor said earlier this week. "But when we look back, we always hear the good things that happen as a result."

Full story here.

Mike M.
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#11 Ed Hudgins

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 10:23 AM

Michael Thanks for your thoughtful observations. On believers, I used Hoffer's excellent book when I taught political ideology. And I've seen close up since first reading Rand around 1972 that to claim adherence to the principles of the Objectivism does not ensure that one will live a rational, productive, happy life. The Atlas Society, as you know, was founded in part to get away from the "closed" approach to Objectivism which, in practice, resulted in closed minds and what some would describe as cult-like behavior. (David Kelley thinks it's more like tribalism.)

By the way, I heard about the Break after it happened. After first reading Rand I asked Ed Locke, then at Univ. of Maryland, about it and he referred me to "To Whom It May Concern." Our library's copy also included the responses from the two Brandens. I thought the some of the charges in "To Whom" were flimsy and that there was something deeper going on. A year or two later a libertarian friend told me about the Affair. Of course, this was not public info but I had heard about the charge before I started driving up to Boston to attend Ford Hall Forums. I also saw close-minded behavior among some Objectivists with whom I associated. But I agreed with the philosophy and separated it from personality conflicts or the strange behavior of some who adhered to it.

When I speak about the need for a rational culture and rational approach to life, I understand that it is not the content of beliefs about politics or whatever that is the focus but, rather, the process by which one obtains knowledge and the attitude, mindset, etc with which one approaches the pursuit of knowledge. (This will be part of my Summer Seminar talk this year.)

On other matters, we have a target-rich environment. Cato and Reason have their places as does The Atlas Society. And there are lots of matters worthy of our attention: the war on drugs, the pending bankruptcy of the country, and much more.

#12 sjw

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 10:32 AM

On other matters, we have a target-rich environment. Cato and Reason have their places as does The Atlas Society. And there are lots of matters worthy of our attention: the war on drugs, the pending bankruptcy of the country, and much more.


It'd be interesting to see a rational analysis of what the priorities ought to be and why. To my mind there are two major areas of issues: 1) the evisceration of most individuals' sense of self-sovereignty; 2) the informal evisceration of The Bill of Rights from the Constitution. Both of these are squarely opposed to the kind of America that existed at its founding.


Shayne

#13 Selene

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 11:00 AM

It'd be interesting to see a rational analysis of what the priorities ought to be and why. 1) the evisceration of most individuals' sense of self-sovereignty; 2) the informal evisceration of The Bill of Rights from the Constitution. Both of these are squarely opposed to the kind of America that existed at its founding.
Shayne


Shayne:

Until we effectively break certain cyclical conditioning, we will be unsuccessful.

A devolution of the compulsory public "educational" system is one of the top three priorities.

A devolution of most central federal agencies is a second critical priority.

Finally, a minimum mandatory life sentence for any public official convicted of bribery, influence peddling and other fiduciary crimes while in office.

This would be a good start.

Adam
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#14 sjw

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 11:59 AM


It'd be interesting to see a rational analysis of what the priorities ought to be and why. 1) the evisceration of most individuals' sense of self-sovereignty; 2) the informal evisceration of The Bill of Rights from the Constitution. Both of these are squarely opposed to the kind of America that existed at its founding.
Shayne


Shayne:

Until we effectively break certain cyclical conditioning, we will be unsuccessful.

A devolution of the compulsory public "educational" system is one of the top three priorities.

A devolution of most central federal agencies is a second critical priority.

Finally, a minimum mandatory life sentence for any public official convicted of bribery, influence peddling and other fiduciary crimes while in office.

This would be a good start.

Adam


This is a negative rather than a positive. What I'd said is that we need to instill a (rational) sense of self-sovereignty, and instill a respect for civil rights. What you're referring to here is tearing down this or that, but not what you'll put in its place.

I would question whether or not those need to be torn down in order to achieve the positives. For example, I went through public school, but still was able to read Ayn Rand and change my mind on things. Ergo tearing down public education is not obviously inherently necessary (but I would definitely advocate getting the Federal Government's noses out of what should be a local community-oriented activity).


Shayne

#15 Selene

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 12:08 PM

Shayne:

When you went to primary school, I am guessing, was at least thirty (30) years ago, when you were about six (6) [this of course assumes that you are at least thirty-six plus (36+) now.

Do you have any concept as to how precipitous the decline has been in education in the last three (3) decades?

I am asserting as a basic premise that you will not be remotely capable, systematically, installing or instilling those positives without cleansing the wound down to the bone.

Adam
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#16 sjw

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 12:16 PM

Do you have any concept as to how precipitous the decline has been in education in the last three (3) decades?


I have only a vague idea based on anecdotal information. My primary concern is about college education. I didn't get much out of high school education myself, but I did get a lot out of college, and I have some anecdotal experience that says that college education standards have declined considerably.

I am asserting as a basic premise that you will not be remotely capable, systematically, installing or instilling those positives without cleansing the wound down to the bone.

Adam


Metaphors aren't reasons.


Shayne

#17 Selene

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 12:24 PM

As an engineer, would you add a new layer of structure upon a cracked foundation wall, or would you raze the wall and then add the new layer of structure upon an intact foundation wall?
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#18 sjw

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 12:26 PM

As an engineer, would you add a new layer of structure upon a cracked foundation wall, or would you raze the wall and then add the new layer of structure upon an intact foundation wall?


I'd first stop thinking in metaphors, and then figure out the right way to think about it based on the actual units involved in the situation.


Shayne

#19 Selene

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 12:30 PM


As an engineer, would you add a new layer of structure upon a cracked foundation wall, or would you raze the wall and then add the new layer of structure upon an intact foundation wall?


I'd first stop thinking in metaphors, and then figure out the right way to think about it based on the actual units involved in the situation.
Shayne


I am sad that you would stop thinking in any particular frames.

So, now that I provided a non-metaphorical argument, you are choosing not to answer?

Ok.

Adam
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#20 sjw

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 12:38 PM

I am sad that you would stop thinking in any particular frames.


I use metaphor, but only after having first confirmed its relevance by thinking in terms of the actual units.

So, now that I provided a non-metaphorical argument, you are choosing not to answer?


I must have missed your argument...


Shayne




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